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1

Counting
piglets: who
cares if two is
less than three?

Biolinguistic Investigations

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

February 23
-
25, 2007

Aniela Improta França*

Miriam Lemle*

Maurício Cagy**

Antonio Fernando Catelli Infantosi***

* Linguistics Department / Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

**
Epidemiology and Biostatistics Department/
UFF
-

Federal Fluminense

University
,
Brazil

*** Biomedical Engineering Program / Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

2

Scalar Implicature

The sow is nursing two piglets

Yes!

No!

Reinhart, (1999)

Chierchia, (2000)

Noveck, (2001)

Musolino, (2004)

3

Language development involves three
factors (Chomsky, 2005):


Genetic Endowment


Experience


Principles not specific to the
faculty of language




What about Scalar Implicature

4

In a sentential derivation, when do we
compute scalar implicature?



Standard View



Semantic Core Model

Syntactic Computation


Pragmatics

Syntax







LF

Scalar Implicatures

Phase by phase interspersed with syntax


Affected by downward entailment


Affected by memory resources


Noveck, (2001)

Musolino, (2004)

Chierchia, (2000)
Reinhart, (1999)

5

Psycholinguistic investigation:

Testing 3, 4 , 5 and 6 year
-
olds*

Meet

the

brothers

Wacko

and

Walter
.

Walter

is

an

ordinary

kid
.

But

Wacko

is

kind

of

crazy
.

He

likes

to

say

funny

things
.

For

example,

I

asked

Walter

what

food

he

liked

best

and

he

said

it

was

pizza
.

Then

I

asked

Wacko,

and

he

said

it

was

sardine

sundae!

The

other

day

I

had

a

lot

of

fun

looking

at

some

pictures

with

Walter

and

Wacko
.

They

said

lots

of

things

about

the

pictures
.

Now

let’s

play

a

guessing

game
.

I

will

tell

you

things

that

they

said

to

me

when

they

looked

at

the

pictures

and

you

will

guess

if

it

was

Walter

or

Wacko

who

said

those

things
.






One of the brothers said: “The girls /
boys are reading a magazine.”

Who said that?

One of the brothers said: “The horse
is carrying two / four kids”

Who said that?

One of the brothers said: “The sow is
nursing two piglets”

Who said that?



Congruous Fillers


10 tokens



Pragmatically


adjusted


10 tokens

Scalar
implicature

20 tokens




Larger number


20 tokens



Incongruous Fillers


20 tokens

*CNPq (National Research Council) grant

6

Balancing stimuli in the SI group

10

10

10

10

10

10

10

10

Congruous fillers
-

expected to yield references to Walter

Incongruous fillers
-

expected to yield references to Wacko

Pragmatically adjusted
-

expected to yield references to Walter

Scalar Implicature
-

expected to yield references to Walter

Larger number
-

expected to yield references to Wacko

Now, extracting just the scalar implicature ones

7

Volunteers


24 children completed the test


6 per target age


3 boys / 3 girls


11 children did not complete or engage in
the test

8

Results

P= 0,6

0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
100
Local verb selection:John is
eating sandals
Inheritance: John is holding a
pizza and will read it.
Wh dislocation: What song is
Diane washing?
Scalar implicature: The sow is
nursing two piglets
3 year-olds
4 year-olds
5 year-olds
6 year-olds
FRANÇA, A. I. O processamento de concatenações lingüísticas na aquisição.
In: Revista Letra UFRJ, Rio de Janeiro, v. 1, n. 1, p. 9
-
28, 1806
-
5333, Ed.
Faculdade de Letras, 2004


Scalar

Implicature

Percentage of judgment deviations from adult standards per age, per type of cognition

9

Percentage of application of scalar
implicature per age

95
90
100
95
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
100
3 year-olds
4 year-olds
5 year-olds
6 year-olds
Conclusion
: Despite the fact

that children had a good performance

on controls, for instance by massively

rejecting higher
-
than
-
real values,

until the age of 6 children equally

accept all downward values.


Is the Gricean Law of Informativeness

acquired later on? (Pragmatic View)

or

Is there a computational cost related

to applying Scalar Implicatures?

(Structural View)

10

Now, the adults: the ERP experiment



Twenty
-
nine adults (15 males)



While monitored by an EEG,


each volunteer looked at a


picture for 2000 ms.



Then a sentence describing the


scene in the picture started


appearing on the screen word


by word.



Each sentence had five words.



Each word was on for 200ms.



In 50% of cases, the quantities


were adjusted to describe the


total quantity of items



In 50%, quantities were smaller


than the exact total.

11

Results

12

Results

Wilcoxon test (non
-
parametric) was

applied to amplitudes and latencies:



N600: Derivations in which the


amplitude of the wave related to


the sentence with incongruous


number was meaningfully higher


than that of sentence related to


the congruous number


Cz Pz P4 C4 C3



N600 Derivations in which the latency


of the pragmatically congruous was


meaningfully longer than that of the


incongruous


Fz Cz Pz C4 P4 C3 P3 F3



N400: Overlapping (statistically


irrelevant) for all derivations



13

What else do we know about

electrical responses to linguistic stimuli?

The boy ate

l

a

sandal

FRANCA,

A
.

I
.

;

et

alii

(
2004
)



trigger

The boy ate

l

a sandwich

The boy kicked

l

the ball

The chair kicked
l

the ball

LAGE,

A
.

C
.

(

2005
)

trigger

14

Artificially aligning the three experiments

Experiment 1

The boy ate a sandal.

Verb
-
object integration: 375ms

Experiment 2

The chair kicked the ball.

Subject
-
vP integration: 670ms

Experiment 3

The sow is nursing two piglets.

Cardinality Judgment: 560ms

15


The sow is nursing two piglets

nP

piglets

dP

d

two

Root

Phrase

v’

vP

nurse

cardinality

congruence

two

v

d

nP

the

sow

dP

Aspect’

Asp

Cause’

Cause P

Aspect P

ing

16


The sow is nursing two piglets

nP

piglets

dP

d

two

Root

Phrase

v’

vP

nursing

cardinality

congruence

two

C’

CP

v

d

nP

the

sow
i

dP

Aspect’

Asp

Cause’

Cause P

Aspect P


pres


be

T’

T

TP


T Aux

Electrophysiological consequence:

The deeper the embedding, the shorter the wave latency.

two

t
i

17

Scalar Implicature

The sow is nursing two piglets

Yes!

No!

18

Conclusion:


Children

get

to

the

total

number

of

items

in

the

picture

by

literally

counting

and,

in

fact,

if

a

person

is

counting,

two

is

on

the

way

to

reach

three
.

This

explains

why

children

accepted

any

number

within

the

downward

range
.

They

had

an

array

of

potentially

right

answers

activated

in

their

minds
;



Presumably,

children’s

method

of

accessing

a

number

by

counting

is

less

costly

for

them

than

that

used

by

adults,

who

access

small

numbers

without

counting

and

keep

a

record

of

the

total

in

the

working

memory

to

be

checked

later

against

the

number

uttered

by

the

experimenter
;


As

to

the

adults,

the

sequence

of

ERPs

shows

us

that

syntactic

computations

take

place

one

after

the

other,

depending

on

the

depth

of

embedding
;


There

is

more

electrical

activity

(greater

amplitude)

connected

to

the

processing

of

incongruous

sentences

in

the

scalar

implicature

series

and

also

in

the

other

tests

used

as

comparisons
;


Since

cardinality

checking

seems

to

be

computed

earlier

than

subject

integration,

we

propose

that,

in

this

syntactic

structure

tested,

cardinality

congruence

between

image

and

utterance

happens

at

the

vP

phase
.

If

this

computation

is

to

be

called

Pragmatics,

then

we

can

say

that

Pragmatics

is

interspersed

with

syntax,

coming

in

right

in

the

middle

of

the

derivation,

but

in

a

principled

way,

at

the

vP

phase

border
.


19

Language development involves three
factors (Chomsky, 2005):


Genetic Endowment


Experience


Principles not specific to the faculty of
language





What about Scalar Implicature

20

1. ERP investigations of other types of scalar implicature

both linguistically and pragmatically motivated

What now?

21

What now?

2. Playing with the Scalar Implicatures inserted in the subject position

Two boys drive their carts.

22

What now?

3. Manipulating with Root vocabulary items in nPs (Encyclopedic knowledge)

The dog chews some sticks.

23

Bibliography


Chierchia, G. (2004). Scalar implicatures, polarity phenomena and the syntax/pragmatic interface. In A. Beletti (Ed.),
Structures and Beyond
. Oxford University Press.


Ferreira, F. & Clifton, C. (1986). The independence of syntactic processing.
Journal of Memory and Language
,
25
,
348
-
358.


FRANCA, A. I. ; CAGY, Maurício ; LEMLE, Miriam ; CONSTANT, Pedro ; INFANTOSI, Antonio Fernando Catelli .
Discriminating amo
ng different types of verb
-
complement merge in Brazilian Portuguese: an ERP study of morpho
-
syntactic sub
-
processes. Journal of Neurolinguistics, Estados Unidos, v. 17, n. 6, p. 425
-
437, 2004.


FRANÇA, A. I. O processamento de concatenações lingüísticas na aquisição. In: Maria Cecilia de Magalhães Mollica.
(Org.). A segunda Língua: aquisição e linguagem. Revista Letra UFRJ, Rio de Janeiro, v. 1, n. 1, p. 9
-
28, 1806
-
5333,
Ed. Faculdade de Letras, 2004



Lage, A. C. . Concatenações do objeto e do sujeito em português e em alemão: conclusões de experimentos
psicolingüísticos on
-
line.. Linguística Revista da Pós Graduação Em Linguistica da Universidade Federal do Rio de
Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, v. 1, n. 1, p. 81
-
108, 2005.


Katsos, N., Breheny, R., & Williams, J. (2005). Interaction of structural and contextual constraints during the on
-
line
generation of scalar inferences.
Proceedings of the 27thAnnual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society.


Noveck, I. A. & A. Posada (2003). Characterising the time course of an implicature.
Brain and Language
,
85
, 203
-
210.


Noveck, I. A. (2001). When children are more logical than adults: experimental investigation of scalar implicatures.
Cognition
, 78, 165
-
188.


Papafragou, A. & Musolino J. (2003). Scalar implicatures: experiments at the semantics/pragmatics interface.
Cognition
,
86
, 253
-
282.